Subscribe to our newsletter
The best bets and resources to make you more profitable
|Bucks Win Percentage||36.34%|
|Celtics Win Percentage||63.66%|
|Game Date & Time||May 1, 1 p.m. ET|
The No. 2 seed Boston Celtics and No. 3 seed Milwaukee Bucks split their regular-season series and both finished the regular season with identical 51-31 records. They had even more similarities in their opening-round playoff series.
Both teams made quick work of their opponents — the Celtics were the only team to pull off the sweep, dominating the Nets 4-0, while the Bucks pulled the “gentleman’s sweep,” dispatching of the Chicago Bulls 4-1.
Both teams also advanced despite some injury adversity — the Celtics were without defensive stalwart Robert Williams for their first two games while the Bucks lost their second leading scorer and invaluable two-way player in Kris Middleton in Game 3.
The big difference is the Celtics have Williams back and are now at full strength, while Middleton is expected to miss this entire series. That swings the matchups in the favor of the Celtics.
With Williams healthy again, the Celtics have all kinds of big bodies to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez in the low post, especially with Al Horford stepping up his defensive prowess here in the postseason.
Now that Middleton — the man who was going to be tasked with guarding Jayson Tatum — is out, Tatum should be able to keep scoring at his torrid pace and Jaylen Brown will have more opportunities off switches without worrying about Middleton’s length and excellent perimeter defense.
Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart is a difficult matchup for Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday on the offensive end of the floor and Boston’s bench guards Derrick White and Payton Pritchard are problematic matchups for the Bucks as well.
Former Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was always regarded as a basketball genius, but I would argue that Ime Udoka has been every bit as good at the professional level. In his first year on the job, he turned the Celtics into one of the league’s toughest teams and his defensive schemes have been nothing short of incredible so far these playoffs.
Against the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics put the defensive focus on smothering Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and forced the other guys to beat them (they couldn’t). Granted it was only his first playoff series, but Udoka did everything right against the Nets and continually put Boston in advantageous situations throughout the sweep.
That said, he is going to have to employ a totally different strategy this series and time will tell if he is up to the task. Unlike the Nets, whose two stars lived outside and did their damage on the perimeter and mid-range, the Bucks and Giannis do their damage by driving straight through you. Boston was able to throw two bodies at Durant all of last series and seriously limit him, but Milwaukee’s role players are far superior to what Brooklyn had.
Speaking of role players, the Bucks have gotten excellent shooting out of their bench so far this postseason. Against the Bulls, Grayson Allen shot an absurd 58.3% from 3. Wesley Matthews, who averaged 33% during the regular season, shot 48% from 3. If they can keep that up this series, it will be a “pick your poison” for the Celtics.
Unfortunately for the Bucks in Game 1, I don’t see them shooting anywhere near that level from the perimeter. Boston has the top perimeter defense since the calendar struck 2022 and the Celtics should be able to smother the Bucks sharpshooting and limit their efficiency from the field.
The Bucks have been a great hammer this season, but a terrible nail. They were great at beating the good teams and pulverizing the bad teams, but when they stepped up in class, they really struggled. In the role of the underdog, the Bucks were a money-burning 5-11 (31%) against the spread this season, a clear “bet against” when they stepped up in class.
The Bucks have also been historically awful in Game 1s under coach Mike Budenholzer. Last year in the playoffs on their way to a championship, let’s not forget the Bucks went down 0-2 to both the Nets and Phoenix Suns, as well as going 0-4 ATS in each of their Game 1s.
They continued that trend again this year — failing to cover against the Bulls in Game 1. In 2020, the Bucks failed to cover either of their playoff Game 1s against either Orlando or Miami, two games they lost outright as heavy chalk. That’s 0-7 ATS for the Bucks in Game 1s over the last three playoffs, a serious under-the-radar angle offering us an edge here.
The Bucks weren’t really tested in Round 1, facing an injury-riddled Bulls team that really struggled stepping up in class all year — a putrid 2-19 straight up and ATS when they played teams with a win percentage over .600. The Celtics faced a championship-caliber team (at least according to their odds) in the Nets and swept them. The Celtics are 33-6 SU in their last 39 games, a team that is peaking at just the right time.
Pick: Celtics -4.5 | -110 at DraftKings
When the Bucks have lost this year, which happened 31 times in the regular season and once in the playoffs, they are 0-32 ATS in those games.
Not one time all year have they lost the game but covered the spread as an underdog.
When they have lost, they have lost by a margin.
I don’t expect them to win on Sunday and if history is any indication, they won’t be covering this small two-possession spread in a loss.
Home chalk worth laying! Celtics 110, Bucks 104.